The Trial of Samuel Chase

38 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2008

See all articles by Jeffrey Bruce Berman

Jeffrey Bruce Berman

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law

Date Written: 2007


In 1805 the United States government faced a difficult choice: Would our laws be interpreted by a free and independent judiciary, or would the Supreme Court and all of the lower courts be beholden to Congress and the President? We know the answer. Our judicial system has been the check and balance on both of the other branches of government for the past two-hundred years. But like any great journey, the destination is much less important than how you get there.

The Impeachment Trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase was a mile marker on that journey. If he had been convicted and removed from office, it would have established a precedent that would have forced the Supreme Court Justices to bend to the wishes of Congress or face expulsion.

The Trial of Samuel Chase is a play that presents the trial in a dramatic fashion. The play was created by editing the original trial transcripts so it is an accurate representation of how the trial went without all of the procedural minutia. Although the play was written for a law student audience in celebration of Constitution Day 2006, it is suitable for any audience with an interest in history, justice, or good old-fashioned courtroom drama.

Keywords: Judiciary, Judicial independence, Independent judiciary, Judicial system, Supreme Court, Congress, Executive, Impeach, Impeachment, Samuel Chase, Justice Chase, Checks and Balances, Branches of government, Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, Thomas Jefferson, Circuit Courts Act of 1801

JEL Classification: K00, K40, H11

Suggested Citation

Berman, Jeffrey Bruce, The Trial of Samuel Chase (2007). Available at SSRN: or

Jeffrey Bruce Berman (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

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